Today we begin the book of 1 Chronicles. The goal of 1 and 2 Chronicles is to give a history of the kingdom of Judah, beginning with King Saul taking his life, David taking over the throne, and then how David is succeeded by his son Solomon and later kings of Judah.
While the events in 1 and 2 Chronicles overlap with many of the events we read about in 1 and 2 Kings, there are a couple major differences. The first difference is that 1 and 2 Chronicles focuses only on the kingdom of Judah. In contrast, 1 and 2 Kings gives a shorter account of both Judah and Israel.
A second difference is that 1 and 2 Chronicles tend to go into greater detail about certain events in the lives of Judah’s kings. So the insights we gain from reading 1 Chronicles and 2 Chronicles can be slightly different from, although complementary with, the insights we gain about those same kings as described in 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings. It’s similar to how the New Testament contains four gospels, all talking about many of the same events, but from slightly different perspectives which complement one another.
Tradition holds that it was Ezra who wrote 1 and 2 Chronicles, although we do not have many clues about the author’s actual identity. Most Biblical scholars conclude that 1 and 2 Chronicles were written no later than 400 BC.
With that background in mind, today’s passage is 1 Chronicles 1:1-54. Let’s go!
On verses 1-54: At first glance when we read this passage all we see is list after list of people, many of whom we have never heard and whose names we might have trouble pronouncing. In fact, the first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles consist mostly of these genealogies (ancestor name lists)! Why did the Chronicler begin this book with so many genealogies? It was to show how amazing it was that the Israelites, a relatively small people group, became God’s chosen people. These genealogies helped the Israelites to appreciate their place in God’s story.
Also, as we dig deeper into some of these name lists, we will uncover some significant and amazing truths, especially in verses 1-3 below.
On verses 1-3: Take the first ten names that appear in 1 Chronicles: Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, Noah. According to various scholars, the meaning of each of these names is as follows:
Adam means “Man”
Seth means “Appointed”
Enosh means “Subject to death”
Kenan means “Sorrowful”
Mahalel means “From the presence of God”
Jared means “One comes down”
Enoch means “Dedicated”
Methuselah means “Dying, he shall send”
Lamech means “To the poor brought very low”
Noah means “Comfort, or rest”
When you put the meanings of these ten names together, what you get is an amazing summary of the Gospel: man, though appointed and made in God’s image, fell short of God’s glory and became subject to death and sorrow. Yet from the presence of God, One will come down who will be dedicated to God. By dying, this One would be brought very low, sent to the poor so that He might provide comfort and rest for all.
In other words, centuries before Jesus was born, the Old Testament was already pointing to our need for a Saviour and God’s plan to provide that Saviour from heaven (Jesus).
To help make sense of what is going on in the rest of verses 1-54, see my notes below:
Verses 1-27 show that the Israelites descended from Adam (v1) and later Noah (v1). While other people groups would be born to Noah’s other sons Ham and Japheth (v5-16), the Israelites would be born through Noah’s son Shem (v4, 17-27) and Noah’s eventual descendant Abraham (v27).
Verses 28-42 show that although Abraham produced children with three women (his wife Sarah, her maidservant Hagar, and his concubine Keturah), the Israelites would be born through the family tree of Abraham and Sarah, their son Isaac and their grandson Jacob (whose name God would later to change to “Israel”).
Verses 35-42 show that although Israel (formerly Jacob) was the one through whom the Israelites would be born, Israel’s brother Esau would also become a mighty nation called Edom (v35-54).
What can we learn from this? Sometimes in order to appreciate who we are and where we are going, we first need to appreciate who, and where, we came from. Are you aware of the people and stories that have brought you and your family to where you are today? A useful exercise for you at your next family gathering might be to interview your relatives from the generations before you and find out what people and stories have shaped you and your family. Where have you seen God’s grace and mercy upon your family?
1 Chronicles 1:43 (NIV) 43 These were the kings who reigned in Edom before any Israelite king reigned: Bela son of Beor, whose city was named Dinhabah.
On verses 43-54: Why would the Chronicler go out of his way to list the kings of Edom and say that these kings of Edom reigned “before any Israelite king reigned” (v43)? In part it is to show how different the people who came out of Israel (Jacob) turned out compared to the people who came out of Edom (Esau). Whereas Esau’s descendants followed the ways of the world and appointed kings almost immediately, Jacob’s descendants did not appoint a king till much later. That’s because God wanted to be their only king. Whereas the kingdom of Edom fell long time ago, the kingdom that came through Israel continues to this day.
What can we learn from this? When you follow God’s plans for your life, be prepared that your life will be different – both in wonderful ways and challenging ways – compared to people who have no interest in following God.
Lord Jesus, thank You for Your Word which is ahead of its time. Thank You that when we were subject to death and sorrowful, You came down from the presence of God and were dedicated to God. You died and were brought low, and as a result we find comfort and rest in You. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!